The military have been busy today, with three Chinooks flying low over the countryside. This time the local paper picked up on the story, unlike the times when the deep thud of something being exploded makes the whole house rattle and the Systems Administrator jokes that they must have found a big one in the back of the cupboard. The Chinooks are with the RAF's 28 Squadron, over this week from their base in Oxfordshire to practice moving men and materials around the battlefield with Colchester's 16 Air Assault Brigade. The Chinooks are impressive in a massive, stately way and it's interesting to find out what they're doing for once.
A large, fat, dark greenish grey military plane of some kind flew past between us and the lettuce tunnels, low and incredibly loud. I thought vaguely it must be some sort of bomber, and then that it didn't look vintage and I don't think we do bombing like that nowadays, so I asked the SA, who hadn't seen it but said it must have been the new European transport aircraft, the A400M, that was being rough field landing tested up at Woodbridge last year. A picture of it had found its way into the article about the Chinooks, though with no explanation from the paper as to what it was, but the SA said the two flypasts were nothing to do with each other.
Another article in the Times confirmed that there was a virus induced outbreak of what was described as a lingering cough, and quoted several doctors imploring the public to ignore the advice on the NHS website to seek medical advice for coughs lasting more than three weeks, so long as they were otherwise feeling generally better and not suffering from breathlessness or unexplained weight loss or coughing up blood. That sounds like us, gradually feeling generally better but still coughing, and far from unexplained weight loss I am suffering from entirely explained weight gain from inactivity and too much consolatory ice cream.
Making the most of the warmer weather before the next icy blast arrives I got on with weeding and deadheading in the gravel planting in the middle of the turning circle (which gave me a ringside view of the A400M, while the SA missed it). Another attractive but slightly terrifying self seeder is fennel. I grow the bronze sort and as I admire the silhouette of its flat topped, radiating clusters of seed heads in early winter, I can never quite forget that every one is poised to present me with a crop of new little fennels that will have to be pulled out of the gravel by hand. Fennel is a tap rooter, and new plants rapidly become resistant to being pulled up, the leaves breaking away in your fingers and leaving the little white root to shoot anew. It is particularly difficult to grub out when it seeds between paving slabs. I have read of people who use the feathery young foliage as a companion to spring tulips but then cut it down so as not to have to deal with the seed heads, but the sulphur yellow flowers and then the architectural outline in autumn are attractive.
Inspecting the gravel close up as I weeded confirmed that I needed to order a couple of bags and top up the thin bits. The garden would easily take three or four bags, but I don't want to commit to spreading out more than two at a time. The spot where I would like to have them set down, just inside the entrance so that the lorry doesn't have to manoeuvre inside the garden, is unfortunately blocked by brambles and a thicket of sea buckthorn shoots that have sprung up in the past year. I am getting exasperated with the sea buckthorn, since great lumps of the original plants that were supposed to be providing a screen at the boundary seemed to die late last summer, and meanwhile the roots are advancing into the drive and trying to conquer new territories. I wish it would just stay where I'd put it and do the job it was supposed to do. I don't want the gravel lorry in the garden because I need to trim the eleagnus hedge before we have any more lorries, and I am further away from being able to order gravel than ever if I have to cut the whole hedge first.
As it is a great lump of hedge needs tying in and tidying up where it got caught in the wing mirror of a huge truck whose driver obstinately tried to drive up to the house, instead of stopping at the gate and walking up to the front door. I presume he thought he was saving himself some time, but it took him so long to back out and he made such a hash of it that he'd have been far better off stopping short. Once he'd finally extracted himself from the garden and opened the back of the enormous truck it was entirely empty except for one eight by four foot sheet of modelling foam that the SA had bought online. It is much cheaper bought in bulk, apparently. There were a couple of pallets which I thought the driver might have given me after he'd made such a mess of my hedge, but he said No.